Programs: Railroad History of Fremont County

Page 1: Introduction, Builders and Money, Trolleys and Transportation

Page 2: Coal Camp Spurs, Horrifying to Heartwarming, Royal Gorge Railroad Wars,

Other presentations that are part of this program include Horrifying to Heart Warming, Accidents, Robberies, Incidents by Marie LaCasse Depots of Western Fremont County by Carol McNew, Depots of Eastern Fremont County by Dorothy Cool, Refineries & Smelters by Gayle McKinnon; and , Importance and Impact of the Railroads by Margaret Storm: Please visit the archive if interested in booking one or all of these presentations.

The archive adopted the research project, Railroad History of Fremont County, Colorado for the year 2019. Programs developed from this research were presented at the 2019 Senior College at Pueblo Community College Canon, City Campus, as the first five months of programs in the Florence Bell Tower Cultural Center’s 2019 Second Sunday series, at the American Legion Post in Florence, and for the Territorial Daughters of Colorado, Southern Division. These summaries are from the presentations at the Bell Tower. Photos on next page from Bell Tower and Senior College presentations. Contact into the archives for more information.

Introduction by Mildred Wintz

During our presentation in July, Mildred Wintz talked about the three things that any railroad needs; land ownership, appropriate equipment, and four fragile, renewable resources: fuel, water, manpower, and financial viability. Losing any one of the resources could wipe out a railroad immediately. Running
out of water, or cutting all the local timber for ties or fuel could wipe out a line.

An obvious feature of the railroad is the rails set upon the road bed. The width between the rails is called the gauge. You have either the 4’8 ½” standard gauge or the 3 foot narrow gauge. Historically the standard width of most road beds was established by the first major international roadbuilders, the Roman army. The most common Roman vehicle was a single horse drawn chariot. The width of the horse determined the common width of the chariot, which determined the common width of the road.

Builders and Money by Melvena Benham

Melvena Benham talked about the Builders and money involved in the three different railroads here in Fremont County. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe charter was written singlehandedly by Colonel Cyrus Holliday. Who also became its president. During the Royal Gorge Railroad War, Thomas Nickerson was president.

The Denver and Rio Grande was started by General William Palmer. The Denver and Rio Grande was always trying to come up with more money in order to stay in operation. Finally toward the end of the Railroad war Jay Gould purchase 37,791 shares of stock. The Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad was started by James Alexander McCandless. McCandless convinced William Johnson to become a director of the railroad. These two men were having a difficult time attracting investors for the railroad. However they were finally able to convince David Moffat to
become involved, and within just over a year the railroad was complete.

Visions of an Electric Railway in Fremont County by Sylvia Andrews

Sylvia Andrews gave us the story of the electric railways revolving around the rapid growth of Florence and Canon City in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s plus technological advances in the railroad industry. The discovery of gold, then coal, then black gold and other minerals as well as fertile land and rapid population growth made Florence leaders aware of the need for electric railways. Thomas Robinson, mayor of Florence, tried for several years to realize his vision for a streetcar system called the Florence Electric Railway Company that would run from Florence to Canon City. Robinson had raised the capital,
incorporated, and started building by 1900. Orders had been place for the machinery, car, rails, ties, etc. and work was under way for the $6,000 Bridge. Several blocks of track were laid and then funding dried up. In the book’ “Colorado Trolleys”, Leland Feitz wrote, “Canon City and Florence came so close to having a trolley system, that had the plan developed, it would have been one of Colorado’s most ambitious transportation systems.” Just a few years later automobiles would put an end to plans for streetcars, but Robinson should be remembered for his futuristic dreams of networking cities and using sustainable energy.

Programs page 2